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Our Christmas 2014 Highlights

Gladly, Christmas took it’s time getting here this year. It didn’t sneak attack but rather stealthily aimed itself at my life and I prepared for the onslaught with the small people in mind. It’s easy to be slack about holiday happenings when you’re a swingin’ single gal. You are carefree as it ought to be. Because the next phase of your life involves being responsible for small lives and their happiness forever.

Playing with the Christmas loot on shalavee.com

Littles need lots of selfless consideration, preferably well in advance so you don’t get knocked for a loop when the big present might not arrive in time. But there’s really nothing to be done about the fading sound of the ringing of the belief bell.

Her very own laptop on Shalavee.com

Christmas 2014 highlights necessarily include happiness and a little disaster. Of course Eamon woke up the first day of Christmas break sneezing and gifted me his cold for Christmas. My nose was in the holiday mode with red and green nostril discharge at any given time throughout. Festive! And Fiona can now say Ah-choo, so funny.

And then Christmas Eve, I walked into our office to see Fiona at the desk on the chair with my open laptop pressing the on button. And then pressed it off. It would seem that the computer has to “repair” itself after such an incident. I thought my brain would explode with worrying. And then, for some unknown reason, I thought it would then be a fabulous idea to make another round of cookies that same day too. But everything is well that ends well.

Waiting for the cookies to bake on shalavee.com

Our new hot water heater, installed last Spring, hadn’t been doing its 80 gallon best and a test of the bottom element found it to be bad. Really? I think I’m officially a grumpy old lady because new appliances are now a dreadful thing to me. Like when you get them and they don’t work or they’re really loud or they aren’t as efficient as the last one. Hate that. I offer my vacuum cleaner picture as proof.

Kenmore vacuums aren't what they used to be on Shalavee.com

But Mark went right ahead and called and the part will be here this week. Unfortunately he’ll have to install it and that should prove tricky with his hand healing after a carpal tunnel operation tomorrow. One hand Stan I’ll be calling him.

Princess potty on Shalavee.com

Happiness was everywhere. I decorated three beautiful trees without a hitch. There were no complaints about the presents because either the child got what they wanted or didn’t have a clue that such a day existed and was so very happy to have new presents magically appear. And this year I made sure to number the presents on the bottoms with a master list for me so the present shaker was thrown off. It worked!!!

All three children together on Shalavee.com

But most of all, my children were happy and healthy and here with us opening presents and stealing candy cane chunks to suck until she spit out the plastic wrapping. And we had food on our table that we shared. More than some others during these holy days. If we could get around our shame and our pride, many people could enjoy their holidays just a little more.

So Happy New Year to All and I hope you have much to be grateful for.

See you in 2015. Otherwise known as Friday.

Playtime

As children, we learn numerous other essential life skills from play. We learn how to get along with others and how to practice self-control lest we lose our playmates due to a tantrum. And play makes us happy. So, is it surprising that happiness has been linked to success? I suppose you can be successful without being happy (Donald Trump) but are you enjoying the success?

A successful happy life is also linked with humor because laughter is a direct antidote to pessimism and discouragement. So to attempt to lead a successful life, it would seem we need to start shopping from the happiness aisle. And if that means playing more, so be it.

 dog pillow on couch from Playtime post on Shalavee.com

According to Dr. Alan Marlatt of the University of Washington, if we make the play activities ‘shoulds’ and not ‘wants’, “We run the risk of burn-out and turn to alcohol and other chemical substances to give us relief that we get from play”. Um, yes.

Play activities need to be “want” activities and not “should” activities. And I can say I have spent so very much time stuck in the “But I need to get this done and I should accomplish that before I let myself play” section of that other aisle. Such a habit of wanting to accomplish but not realizing I no longer valued fun and lived in a constant state of boredom, continual hard labor, and adultness. Until recently when I have discovered Creative Flow and am Connecting the Dots of creative self.

 Fiona and Mr Crackers from Playtime post on Shalavee.com

What kind of parent would I be if I did this to my children. Even as a farmer with multiple children, if I needed to till the garden and plow the fields and rethatch the roof, I would still need to cut those laborers some slack to get their yayas out. Because that’s what you do.

In my graduation to adulthood, I forgot what it was like to be a child. To play and learn and wonder and add to the world I am in. I became subsistence girl. Survival mode keeps you alive alright. But it is our destiny to do more than just survive. We have the gift to live and thrive and grow.

jammling on that xylophone from Shalavee.com

So I vow to give myself way more time to play. Whatever that means and however I can make that happen. Play is more important than I have ever given it credit. And so is happiness. Happiness is all it’s cracked up to be.

On Being Here Now

As we plow into another weekend, I take a moment to say,

here I am. I’m being here now.

Red balloon on the ceiling from On Being Here Now from Shalavee.com

I’m busy but I’m being here now, for myself and for my family.

He asked me why I look so busy all the time.

Eamon and the red balloon from On Being Here Now from Shalavee.com

I said because I had four people to take care of.

And then I was asked to list them.

Eamon and the red balloon from On Being Here Now from Shalavee.com

Another week’s ended.

The children have grown in some small way and

the weekend will hold moments dear to us forever.

Eamon holds Fiona from from On Being Here Now from Shalavee.com

I stayed here and did my best this week

for today is all I’ll ever have

and almost more than my heart can bear.

Gathering My Lessons : Lesson #153

What you do for your bosses, husband, and children they’ll come to expect.

I coined this expression when I used to clean houses for a living. I was kind enough to wash and redistribute towels in a client’s bathroom. And the next time I cleaned for her, she was indignant that I’d not done this again. I had never agreed to it as part of my cleaning services to begin with. But somehow, my kindness had turned on me and become an expectation.

DSC00736

Now I am married with children and, at this very moment, I am listening to my little 6 month old red-headed daughter scream and shudder because she thinks I should be retrieving her from her nap. Except, if you’ve napped enough, do you scream? I think not. Death Nap Match of the Fall of 2013 has begun. Rule of thumb is that a well napped child is not screaming and is pleasant to be around. I’m in for the penny and pound as I see this tactic through.

Mother’s have a horribly hard time allowing their children to do things for themselves. And by rushing in, we rob them of many opportunities of creating competency. In this instance, comforting and putting themselves back to sleep. But I could include in this generality, and you’d agree, wiping their butts, cutting up their meat, tying their shoes, and speaking for themselves. Not only will they expect you to continue to do so, they secretly believe you are telling them they’re incapable of doing it themselves. That’s no good.

cookbook corner

As for the husband? Save maybe 6 hours, I’ve spent these past 180 days straight with the daughter. He’s panicked at the thought of spending any alone time with the “baby” for fear he’ll do something wrong. She seems to cry when he’s alone with her. If we don’t create the opportunity for them to bond, how will they? It may be a rough ride but they’ll live through it. He’ll create competency and I’ll get some alone time.

Oh, you want to know what happened with the screaming baby? Of course I went and got her. After her hollering for 40 minutes straight, she was getting hoarse with no signs of letting up. I picked her up and held her silently rocking her. And after a few minutes I laid her down to change her and there were no apparent hard feelings from either of us. Her eyes are bleary and it’s as if nothing ever happened. Until next nap time.

cigar boxes

Be careful what you choose to do because you and the world, and your child, may expect it of you ever after. We are all entitled to our boundaries, to our needs, and to being proud of them when they learn they can do without us.

Vacate Home

(Originally published on Divine Caroline in September of 2009)

Ask my husband about his family’s vacations and he will deliver a chirpy recount of playing guitar at beach campfires, sleeping in a pop-up camper, and the frolicking multitude of cousins. My fractured family vacation memory is one trip to a cabin. There was yelling involved. Add the 15-mile endurance hikes complete with gorp and hard-earned sleep on the ground, a coincidental side effect of divorce and my mother’s new beau, and I don’t have much for the great outdoors or vacations.

Then I grew up, got hitched, had a kid and me and mine just returned from our annual September sojourn to the beach. Yes, it is off-season (also known as hurricane season), but I sleep in a king size bed and relax knowing the rates and crowds are halved. Crowds do not relax me, but neither does wearing a bathing suit. Sacrifices.

Back when we were only “two for dinner,” my husband and I traveled a few times. Our first trip was to England and Ireland. This trip clinched my future “I Do” to this man. If the long leg cramping plane ride, jet lag, and barreling down the side of a mountain in a Ford Fiesta on the wrong side of the road in the pouring rain doesn’t stress you out enough to even bicker, he’s the one. We each had our duties; he was the money man and I was the navigator. We still have these roles in our daily life.

Our first beach trip was a birthday celebration for me and we checked into our hotel anticipating a little vacation nookie. We agreed, “Nice pool” and “Killer water slide.” The next time we visited, I was knocked up guaranteeing our future return with a “family” perspective.

We took no vacations with our baby. He was already too much work. I couldn’t imagine spending all that money to not relax. We didn’t even eat out a lot in his third year because mostly he’d act like a jackass when we did and, once again, I didn’t want to waste the money.

We finally took the kid on an overnight when he was three and a half. It was okay. He was thrilled to press the elevator button, ride on the luggage cart, and find our room by reading the numbers. Although, when we told him it was time to go to sleep, he said he was ready to go home and sleep in his own bed. I spent that night sleepless, in and out of both beds, and the kid slept soundly.

This year’s trip proved he’s a big boy. I did not constantly feel irked or think about his every need. We ate out three times and he ate a third of his food each time. Huge deal. Not a lot of back-up food was really necessary. Other highlights included hunting down a special shovel and bucket set for the low, low price of 8.49 plus tax. This made the beach an event.

Every year we improve our experience. This year we found a restaurant with a playground, sand floor, good food and beer, and a sunset water view. And though we neglected to bring a DVD for the hotel room, Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood playing on a classic movie channel did the trick. Pirate themed putt-putt golf was a riot. Little dude’s job was to sink the final shots into the cup which he did stooped over and choked up on his little orange putter. We got some great pictures and, fortunately, I was wearing makeup!

I wanted to travel the boardwalk in one of those multi-person pedaling cycle cart things called a surrey. Much like the Flintstone mobiles, it took all your leg power to get it moving. And when a certain four-year-old had to sit on the steering wheel lap to steer and weave his way up the boardwalk through terrified pedestrians, the remaining person was pedaling. That was me. The lap person’s job was equally hard balancing the bruising of the driver’s sensibilities with the saving of lives by grabbing the wheel or slamming on the break. The heat and humidity were an added bonus.

Our last hurrah has become the arcade on the boardwalk followed by fries, lemonade, and a photo-booth picture. This year I added shopping, of course. Jewelry for me and pirate tee for the boy.

It took me a day to realize I didn’t have to do much of anything. Maybe you have to vacate home to focus on the small stuff that doesn’t include the dirty floor, bills, laundry, incomplete projects, or upcoming events that lack to do lists. I sat and I read a lot. And I really did enjoy just being. I enjoyed being the mother of the a cute kid on at the beach. I enjoyed the cool husband who took the first shift in the pool. I enjoyed spraying really cold water-repellent sun block on my kid which made him scream. I enjoyed going down the water slide with this cute ghostly pale kid with the shark swimmy on who yanked off his wet shorts when we got out of the pool.

Sometimes, you need a special mental and physical zone where you have nothing to do but enjoy the scenery. You may need to vacate your comfort zone and find a place where you prioritize creating memories and smiles and tradition. Where you spend a little extra time and money to enjoy your people and the life you usually take for granted and where you generate the photo-op for this year’s Christmas card. Did I mention the kid’s really really cute?

 

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